marion2 In: IN THE PATH OF THE PIPELINE MARION COUNTY ‘First-class operation’ | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Pipe sits above the ground along the path of the 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline on Southwest 180th Avenue Road in Dunnellon on Jan. 30. [DOUG ENGLE/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER]

Andrew Caplan’s series on Sabal Trail in the Gainesville Sun continues today Feb. 15, 2017 as he recounts the experience of Mr. Robert Ross of Ocala with Sabal Trail in Florida.  We disagree with Mr. Ross when he says the pipe is much needed, and with much more of what he says.   One certain fact is that Mr. Ross is in the minority of those who have had contact with Sabal Trail.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


‘First-class operation’

Some see benefits of bringing natural gas through Sabal Trail

By Andrew Caplan

Staff writer

As controversial as it’s been, not everyone is upset with the construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline.

Some believe it’s all for the best.

In Ocala, Robert Ross lives nearly 500 feet from the green pipeline and is a supporter of the $3.2 billion natural gas carrier.

“It’s much needed,” he said. “I’m in favor of it. It’s a good thing.”

Ross, 62, owner of Wood Crafting Woodworks, has lived in the area more than 30 years. He said people in Dunnellon and west Ocala complained about commercial development in their rural neighborhoods long before Sabal Trail came to town.

“Half the residents don’t want that, they don’t want this,” he said. “The residents didn’t want a Wal-Mart.”

Ross said he was first approached by Sabal Trail representatives nearly two years ago; they talked about its benefits and asked him about his views. They visited two times since, the most recent being a few weeks ago.

“I think it’s been a first-class operation,” he said. “Everything has been first-class.”

The 515-mile project, whose parent companies include Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and NextEra, will cross 699 bodies of water and approximately 1,550 landowners’ properties, some who have lost their rights to the land

marionbanner In: IN THE PATH OF THE PIPELINE MARION COUNTY ‘First-class operation’ | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Robert Ross


through eminent domain lawsuits. The pipeline will carry up to a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day through a dozen Florida counties, including Alachua, Levy, Marion, Suwannee and Gilchrist, to supply electricity throughout the state.

Florida already relies heavily on natural gas: nearly two-thirds of the state uses it for electricity.

One of the reasons Ross supports the project is safety. He believes the underground route for natural gas is the safest way to move it, compared with tankers driving cross-country. Ross said traffic accidents could be catastrophic.

“Mistakes lead to explosions,” he said.

Buried 3 feet underground along most of its path, the depth of the pipeline allows Ross to rest easy. He isn’t concerned with any mishaps affecting the Floridan aquifer.

His well is about 64 feet deep, he said. “And they aren’t going that far.”

If the construction of much more invasive projects, like highways, can be built in similar areas, Ross said the pipeline should be fine, too.

“I think it’s the uneducated person, narrow- minded person, that doesn’t want the progress,” Ross said.

But not everyone in Marion County is on board.

Connie Bryant, a Dunnellon resident and retired nurse, stays busy spreading the word to locals about the pipeline and its potentially harmful effects.

Bryant, 64, has lived in the area most of her life. She joins others in walking near Sabal Trail construction sites. It’s her way of showing the company that she has a right to know what is going on in her county. Since she picked up the hobby in August 2016, she said most of the people she has come across have been unaware of the pipeline.

Bryant, who lives less than a mile from the pipeline’s path, said it’s not just the safety of her neighborhood that worries her.

“My biggest fears are a pipeline leak contaminating our aquifer and the Rainbow River, and a pipeline explosion behind our two schools,” she said.

The pipeline runs about a mile from Dunnellon’s high and elementary schools, which Bryant says are within an “explosion zone.” Sabal Trail officials have rejected the term “explosion zone,” saying there is no set area that would be affected by an explosion.

The Pruitt Trailhead, a popular horseback riding location along County Road 484, is another controversial point in the pipeline’s path. One of its trails connect to the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.

The pipeline also leads into the Halapata Tastanaki Preserve, the site of a battle during the Second Seminole Indian war, in 1836. The preserve is connected to miles of riverfront on the Withlacoochee River, which is being crossed by the pipeline. The river features several Floridan aquifer recharge areas along its path.

Geology experts have said if a failure of the pipeline occurred in a recharge area, it could affect the aquifer, although it is highly unlikely. — Contact reporter Andrew Caplan at andrew. [email protected] or on Twitter @AACaplan.

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